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Monday, 8 July, 2002, 15:52 GMT 16:52 UK
Transplant first for cancer patient
Blood bag
Umbilical cord blood is collected shortly after birth
A leukaemia sufferer has become the first adult in the UK to undergo a bone marrow transplant using blood from a baby's umbilical cord.

Stephen Knox, 31, underwent the treatment - previously only performed on children - after being given just months to live.

The procedure was developed by Professor Stephen Proctor, who used stem cell blood from discarded placentas and umbilical cords.

Prof Proctor, based at Newcastle Hospital Trust's Haematology Unit and at Newcastle University, said Mr Knox had responded well to the transplant.


It's a really exciting development and opens up huge possibilities

Professor Stephen Proctor

The operation was carried out on Mr Knox, of Middleton-St-George, near Darlington, after various chemotherapy sessions failed to stem the leukaemia.

Mr Knox was given treatment to kill off his own bone marrow and then injected with the mixed cord blood that has grown into new bone marrow.

Mr Knox is in remission in hospital after undergoing the procedure in February.

Mr Proctor said: "This treatment was his only hope.

"Stephen is progressing much better than we thought he would and the transplant has worked much better and more quickly than we expected.

Professor Stephen Proctor
Professor Proctor has spent years researching stem cells
"It's a really exciting development and opens up huge possibilities.

"It has been carried out 23 times in the UK on children but never with an adult."

Until recently, the blood collected could not be used for adults because they only produce a few drops of the vital stem cells which, when transplanted, grow into new bone marrow.

Mr Proctor and his team have spent years researching how to bulk up the stem cells that match the sufferer's own tissue type, by using cord blood that does not.

Patients dying

The Leukaemia Research Fund (LRF) said they believed it was first time cord blood stem cells had been used in an adult transplant in the UK.

Dr David Grant, LRF Scientific Director said: "Too many patients die awaiting transplant because the search for a donor takes too long or a donor simply cannot be found.

"Anything doctors can do to reduce this devastating heartache is cause for celebration.

"The technique appears to work and we are delighted to see this patient is several months out of treatment and all signs are that he is doing well."


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See also:

10 Oct 01 | Health
08 Sep 01 | Health
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